If you didn’t grow up with the game, you might only be familiar with Tapper from the Wreck-it-Ralph movies from 2011 and 2018, in which case, you’d be missing out on some interesting arcade game history. Tapper was released by Bally Midway in 1983, but you wouldn’t have found it in arcades at the time. The game was originally sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, and was foaming with Budweiser branding. Their logo was featured on the machine exterior, the marquee, and even in the background of the game itself. The cabinets included a classic bar-style brass rail footrest and drink holders, all to put you in the place of the bartender onscreen, sliding drinks to patrons, rescuing their empties, and doing it all in increasingly strange bars. If you can track down a really old version of the machine, you’ll find yourself using an actual Budweiser beer tap handle. (These were eventually replaced with smaller plastic copies that still featured the Budweiser logo.) The game even featured the Budweiser slogan “This Bud’s for You” during the minigame. All of this meant the machine would only be available in bars.
You may object, “but I remember playing it in an arcade!” If you do, you probably played the Root Beer Tapper version of the game, which featured our hero as a soda jerk serving root beer, once again in strange locales. The original Tapper machine became popular enough in bars that the demand grew enough for it to slide into arcades in 1984. Fearing that it would come across as marketing alcohol to minors, the game was rebranded right down to the slogan in the minigame, which became “this one's for you.” You might also have played one of the various ports of the game on: Apple II, Atari's 8-bit computer family, 2600 and even the ill-fated 5200, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, or Amstrad CPC. If this was how you got your Tapper (note the return to the shorter title), you might have seen an even stranger version that was either Mountain Dew or Pepsi-themed and, bizarrely, went back to the original intoxicant-serving bartender instead of the reworked soda jerk of the Root Beer Tapper. There was even a modern mobile take on the game in 2011 that's unfortunately no longer around. No matter which version of the game you enjoyed, though, it might surprise you to find this wasn’t the main character’s only (or even first) video game entry.
There are a few ways we can gather our cliches for this build. The first, and most obvious, is to pull a bit of inspiration from each game. Starting with Domino Man (can we call our character "Domino T. Timber?"), we can focus on that balancing skill…We’ll call it Steady Hands (3), a concept that applies to all three games. This will be useful for things like ranged attacks, balancing, and slight of hand. For another entry, we’ll use Timber and keep it easy with Lumberjacking (3). It’ll require tools of the trade (an axe) and be good for things like axe-throwing, chopping wood, and log walking, (and maybe putting on women’s clothing and hanging around in bars.) Our main inspiration, though, should come from Tapper itself. We’ll give Domino T. Timber Drink Aficionado (4), good for things like telling the difference between Pepsi and Coke and pouring drinks for the masses (both bartending and sodajerking).
Now that you have a few versions of our Tapper hero, you have a couple ways to pour him into one of your games. You don’t have to use these versions, though, feel free to create your own hero based on these loosely-connected games. Or if you’re in the mood for digital games, you have a wide variety of Tappers (and loosely-related sequel and prequel) to try out. Hopefully, at the very least, you'll have a few bits of gaming history to add to your nerdly discussions. Until next time folks, have fun with your games and break some dice!
Send comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet them @neversaydice2.